OF course there had been other folk concerts at Edinburgh's Usher Hall before this one. But the good people of the city stayed away in their thousands — even when Pete Seeger topped the bill. So when the Corrie Folk Trio and Paddie Bell decided to promote this concert they were risking their money and their reputation as a group always associated with success. The gamble paid off at odds beyond anyone's imaginings. Apart from a full house and the feeling of adventure in the air, there was also luck, because the recording machines collected songs that even commercial opponents have had to admit are amongst the finest folk material ever recorded.
To begin with all the artists taking part in the concert respected each other's contribution to the folk scene, had worked together many times before, and, strangely enough, had remained friends. So that you will hear Luke Kelly of the Dubliners leading a rousing ensemble rendering of "Barnyards of Delgaty"; Ronnie Browne of the Corrie Folk Trio and Paddie Bell taking all the verses of "Bog Down in the Valley-O"; and Ray and Archie Fisher inspiring two and a half thousand singers in the finale, "Air Falalalo."
Nadia Cattouse goes back to her native British Honduras for her first song, "Spread Your Carpet.". This is based on a traditional children's song of the island. Nadia used to sing it herself when she was small and, over the years, she has found herself adding to it, a little bit here and there, until it reached its present form.
The Scots and Irish share so much that is best in folk music it is surprising that so many Scots sing Irish songs and even more surprising that the Irish should sing Scots songs. Not content with filching "Barnyards," Luke Kelly goes on to present a version of "I'm a Rover" that would do justice to any Scots balladeer. He is backed by Ceiran [sic] Bourke on the flute, Barney McKenna on tenor banjo, and Ronnie Drew on guitar.
Nadia's second song is also from the West Indies. "The River Ben' Come Down" is a traditional song, sung by children and adults in many versions — even as a sea shanty. Nadia's uncanny way with an audience is demonstrated here by the response she gets from a full house coming to the song for the first time.
Many of Ray and Archie Fisher's songs come from the sea. The shanty' is particularly suited to Ray's unique voice quality and to Archie's light harmonies and lyrical guitar accompaniments. "Let the Bulgine Run" is a good example of a work song put to work. (They are brother and sister, by the way, not husband and wife.)
The Dubliners close side one with a set dance, "Sweets of May," which shows off all their instrumental dash and colour and which had the Usher Hall rocking with its hand-clapping and foot-stamping.
"The Buildings" is a contemporary folk song from the Fishers' native Glasgow. It says succinctly almost all there is to say on the problem of slum clearance and the consequential break-up of community life. It is also good fun.
The tune which Barney McKenna plays on the tenor banjo is nowadays known as "Father Murphy's Air," but it is a much older air than the deeds of the 1798 Rising which the song about Father Murphy, "Boulavogue," commemorates.
Some of the best of the contemporary folk material comes from the pen of Sydney Carter, and Nadia sings many of his songs. "I Wanna have a Little Bomb" seems to say more in two minutes about the lunacy of nuclear stockpiling than all the C.N.D. speeches at Trafalgar Square put together.
At another Edinburgh folk concert at another time, Princess Margaret specially asked the artists to sing "A Lum Hat Wantin' a Croon." Ray has tacked on a revealing preface to her version of a good old Scots song.